About

At Tonde’s Stones we specialise in bringing the finest sculpture from the Shona sculpture movement of Zimbabwe.

Born out of the tragic passing of our company’s namesake, Tonde was a mutual friend and inspiration to us and many of the sculptors we support in Zimbabwe. In respect of Tonde’s memory we aim to treat artists fairly buying directly at honest prices that encourage them to continue following their passion. We are committed to supporting and promoting a new generation of young, exciting artists who are brimming with talent.

Tonde

Tonderai’s mother gave birth to him while fighting in the guerrilla war being waged against the white government of Rhodesia in 1976. Tonde’s step-father, a greatly respected freedom fighter known by his Congolese name “Lokotongo” has been likened to the African Che Guevara having fought in the independence struggles of Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Born in Zimbabwe to Congolese parents, according to legend Lokotongo is the reincarnation of a powerful spiritual healer from his ancestral homeland deep in the Congolese rainforest.

For us Tonde’s story begins in his teenage years as he “crosses the road” from his neighbourhood, to his local cooperative of sculptors, Dindingwe. Soon after his three childhood friends Spencer, Blessings and Caesar joined him there where they worked together. Eventually Tonde went on to join the army and Blessings became a teacher however Caesar and Spencer became hooked on sculpting and stayed at Dindingwe to become established artists.

Tonde’s enthusiasm and positive attitude made him an ideal soldier and he was chosen to serve in Zimbabwe’s elite commando regiment. After serving two years fighting in the horrific war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tonderai returned to Harare. Before being called back to the Congo he decided to leave the army, fleeing Zimbabwe to join his mother in London. Eventually he found his way to a small town on the edge of the Peak District where he met brothers Bertie and Freddie. The brothers offered support in times of need, in the absence of his family, becoming good friends.

Tonde enjoying himself at the beach
Tonde enjoying himself at the beach

Bertie and Francesca

Tonde’s Stones founders, Bertie and Francesca, met while travelling in Australia. After having the time of their lives living in a car picking fruit they decided to go via Africa on their return journey back to Europe.

Tonde's Stones Founders
Bertie and Francesca during their first trip to Zimbabwe.

While travelling through Africa in 2014 we stopped in Zimbabwe, a place we fell in love with not least because of the warm welcome and kindness which is so commonplace. While in Harare we met Joseph, Tondes’s brother, and stayed with his family for three weeks. It was emotional encounter, no one had seen Tonde for about fifteen years and by this time he was terminally ill. His friends and family longed to see him again, yearning for the vitality and enthusiasm that Tonde was famous for.

Tonde’s family in Harare
Bertie and Francesca with Tonde’s family in Harare.

Despite these tragic circumstances we enjoyed our time there finding it amazing to have such a strong connection to these Zimbabweans we had never met before. During our stay we spent time with the cooperative of artists whom Tonde had worked with as a boy. The cooperative had fallen on hard times and was struggling to survive, although there were still many talented artists there dedicating their lives to the craft.

The artist’s commitment despite their hardships was really inspiring. After some thought we decided to ship one crate of sculptures back to the UK believing in the talent of the artists at Dindingwe. Sadly Tonde passed away before the sculptures arrived in the UK but Tonde’s Stones has gone from strength to strength having just received our second shipment of sculptures from Zimbabwe after a successful trip meeting new artists as well as old friends.

Packing the sculptures in Dindingwe.
Celebrating finishing packing sculptures with the guys from Dindingwe.